What has May 1 become? What is the significance of this "trade union holiday" today? What message do they spread about the working class at this point?
The false "celebrations" of the working class
We took a historical journey with March 8, but this is true for all the days of struggle instituted by the Second International: the triumph of the counterrevolution turned them into celebrations of social control by state capitalism in all its forms.
And if March 8 -the day of struggle for proletarian women, and later the anniversary of the start of the Russian Revolution- turned into a celebration of feminism, that is to say, the strict opposite of what its creators intended, March 18 -the anniversary of the Paris Commune- became a celebration of French nationalism in which the PCF paraded images of Joan of Arc herself.
Not to mention May 1st: even the origin and goals of this day have been completely reinvented to turn it into the great annual trade union parade. No one seems to be surprised by the fact that for decades it was organized with equal devotion and similar choreographic passion by stalinist, fascist or democratic states.
Read also: May 1st: what you were not told
In the height of the inversion of meanings, July 19, anniversary of the Spanish Revolution, was erased from history, equated to the previous day (July 18, anniversary of the attempted military coup d'état) and turned into a reminder of the benefits of democracy against fascism.
Read also: What happened on July 19?
In all this brutal and far-fetched inversion of meanings, in the passage from the worldwide days of working class struggle to the democratic-nationalist festivities of today, the unions have been the organizers and vanguard. With so much success, it must be said, that once May 1st has been stripped of all connection with what it was and above all with what it intended to be, they do not even manage to fill the parade with acolytes.
The unions' mood and its context this May 1st
May 1st demonstration today in Barcelona
Today the union-friendly press tells us that "class conscience is languishing". Leaving aside the religious reference of the term "conscience", so different from (class) "consciousness", the message repeats a lament of the union bureaucracy of all colors. "Social changes" would be transforming capitalism and eliminating the very existence of the working class.
The Secretary General of CCOO speaks of a "corporatization of society", the journalist, interpreting Varoufakis, says that "capitalism is transforming into a techno-feudalism" and the former Secretary General of NATO, Javier Solana, says shamelessly that the "figure of the salaried employee is less frequent". Sorry, what? Over 80% of the working people in Spain are salaried employees in the private sector and of those who remain, the vast majority are in the public sector. No matter how much middle management has grown, wage workers are the vast majority of society.
Union membership is another matter. Union leaders themselves recognize that union membership rates have fallen. In Spain, with some upward exaggeration, it is said to stand at 12.5%. So, following Biden, they repeat that "without strong unions there is no prosperity". Precarization would be our fault for not unionizing.
The Bidenite mantra is deceitful. In fact, applied to Europe or Spain, it is even more so and reveals the original lie. Biden wants "strong unions" to ensure industry collective bargaining agreements, to which he attributes the key to prosperity and resistance against falling wages.
But unlike the U.S., a historical anomaly in this regard, having very low unionization rates does not prevent European unions from negotiating collective agreements on behalf of virtually all workers. This is their function under state capitalism and is legally established regardless of the number of affiliates they have.
In fact, as the article cited above acknowledges, in Spain, 80.1% of workers are covered by collective agreements signed by the unions. This is similar to Denmark (82%), Sweden (88%) and Finland (88.8%), the countries with the highest unionization rates in the EU (67%, 65.2% and 58.8% respectively).
So what is the underlying trade union message of this May 1st?
Blaming the workers for the very thing unions promote. One of the CGT train drivers said that "it is very difficult to mobilize the people, they do not take to the streets, there is so much individualism that they only think of their own interests"... and not those of the free trade unionists and their choreographic interests which inevitably end up in collusion with the companies, as we saw in Cádiz.
Another, from the UGT commerce union says, against all demoscopic evidence that "young people are sucked in by Vox". More honest, another delegate of CGT, a union close to Podemos, confesses that "my generation she is 38 years old has stopped believing in politicians and trade unions because of what they have lived through". Obviously.
But the most poignant complaints come from the very same Secretary General of CCOO: "a good part of the Spanish business community sees unions as an aggression," he assures, implying that in reality the union is a solicitous friend unjustly treated by employers. The company's best friend. That's all there is to it.